Posted in psychology

Brainwashing in Toxic Relationships

Brainwashing is defined in the Psychology Dictionary as that which “manipulates and modifies a person’s emotions, attitudes, and beliefs.” It reduces a person’s ability to mentally defend themselves and makes it easier for another person to control them.

Brainwashing (also known as mind control, menticide, coercive persuasion, thought control, thought reform, and forced re-education) is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques.

– Wikipedia

History

The term brainwashing was first coined in the 1950s when journalist Edward Hunter in his article in Miami Daily News entitled – “Brain-washing Tactics Force Chinese Into Ranks of Communist Party.” He described how Mao’s Red Army used ancient techniques to manipulate the masses. He called this hypnotic process – brainwashing, the process to change the mind drastically (Smithsonian Magazine).

It is a theory that a person’s core beliefs, ideas, affiliations and values can be replaced, so much so that they have no autonomy over themselves and cannot think critically or independently.

In 1956, Albert Biderman studied how prisoner of war camp personnel got U.S. prisoners of the Korean War to give them tactical information, collaborate with propaganda, and agree with false confessions. Biderman stated that inflicting physical pain was not necessary to “induce compliance,” but psychological manipulations were extremely effective for that purpose. His report included what has come to be known as “Biderman’s Chart of Coercion.”


In Biderman’s chart, he summarized the tactics in brainwashing;

  • Isolation
  • Monopolization of perception (fixes attention on immediate predicament; eliminates “undesirable” stimuli)
  • Induced debilitation; exhaustion
  • Threats
  • Occasional indulgences (provides motivation for compliance; hinders adjustment to deprivation)
  • Demonstrating superiority
  • Degradation
  • Enforcing trivial demands

Not all eight elements need to be present in order for brainwashing to occur. Each element can have some power to distort reality, interfere with perception, reduce a person’s self-confidence, and gain compliance.

How are you brainwashed?

Based on the mechanisms from Biderman’s chart, you can somehow notice that this person is trying to control you. But first, this person who will try to brainwash you will want to know everything about you in order to manipulate your beliefs. Everything – find out what your strengths are, your weaknesses, who you trust, who is important to you and who you listen to for advice.

They will begin with isolation, it may come in a form of not allowing an access for family or friends. The brainwasher must have a complete control of the target.

In the process, brainwasher will attack the victim’s self esteem, making them vulnerable and easier to control. This can be done through physical or verbal abuse, threats, etc.


you are not who you think you are.

– how stuff works

The abuser denies everything that makes the target who he is: “You are not a soldier.” “You are not a man.” “You are not defending freedom.” The target is under constant attack for days, weeks or months, to the point that he becomes exhausted, confused and disoriented. In this state, his beliefs seem less solid (exhaustion).

Most psychologists believe that brainwashing is possible in the right conditions and settings. Plan must be systematic and relentless making it tiresome for the victim.

While the identity crisis is setting in, the brainwasher is simultaneously creating an overwhelming sense of guilt in the target. He/she repeatedly and mercilessly attacks the subject for any “sin” the target has committed, large or small. The victim now feels a general sense of shame that everything he/she does is wrong.

The ultimate goal of brainwashing is Blind Obedience. The victim follows orders without question. This is usually achieved by positively rewarding the person when they please the brainwasher and negatively punishing them when they do not (indulgences and punishment).

Brainwashing is real.

Yes, it is not just in fictional books and movies. Brainwashing is real!

However, this mind/psychological control should not be feared, and target/prospect having knowledge makes any tactic less effective. Here are some ways that you can do to avoid being brainwashed;

  • Don’t believe everything that you read
  • Don’t buy into fear or scare tactics
  • Watch for someone’s hidden agenda
  • Look out for less obvious messages, try to listen for both sides of the story
  • Follow your own path
  • Do your own research
  • Listen to your own intuition
  • Don’t follow the crowd
  • Don’t be afraid to be different

hugs,

Posted in life

Self Enhancement Bias

In Psychology, Self Enhancement is a common emotional bias. Also called self-enhancing bias. It is different from self improvement which is the act of bettering oneself.


We encounter the word bias, mostly for K-pop, to favor/lean towards to someone or something. In this case – to oneself. People engage in self-enhancement whenever they seek, interpret, or distort evidence about themselves in a way designed to maintain, create, or amplify a positive self-image.



Self-enhancement involves a preference over positive over negative self-views. It is said to be prominent in situations of threat, blows or failure to ones self-esteem.

“The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.”

Oscar Wilde

Based on Kwan et al. (2004), there are two concepts in Self enhancement. One conception originated from Festinger’s (1954) social-comparison theory and compares perceptions of the self with perceptions of others. *Social comparison and self insight.

  1. Self-enhancers are those individuals who perceive themselves more positively than they perceive others.
  2. Self-enhancers are individuals who perceive themselves more positively than they are perceived by others.

Research on Narcissism and Self Insight suggests that self enhancement is the fundamental characteristic of narcissism. In fact, narcissism has been called the “self-enhancer personality”.

Now we know the correlation of narcissism and self enhancement, with narcissism characterized by an overly inflated ego and self esteem. It is reported that scores on measures of narcissistic personality traits have been creeping steadily upward in recent decades in some cultures (Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008). Twenge and Campbell (2009) argue that several interlocking factors are at work here, namely increasingly child-centered parenting styles, the cult of celebrity, the role of social media in promoting self-enhancement which sometimes hidden in the name of self-love.


Pexels.com

A self-enhancer employs a variety of strategies to enhance their self worth. For example they can downplay skills they lack and criticize others that seem to be better in comparison. They sometimes self-enhance by remembering only their strengths and not their weaknesses. Also called selectivity or selective memory.

Then there’s selective acceptance, it involves taking as fact self-flattering or ego-enhancing information with little regard for its validity. Whatever strategy they use, having a self enhancer as your friend or companion is somehow toxic.

The ultimate driving force here – they are above everyone else, that they have more positive attributes and a more positive future outlook compared to others.


  • Disclaimer: This post does not intend to replace, dictate or fully define diagnosis and treatment by a qualified physician. It is intended only for informative purposes.

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Posted in life, psychology

What is Gaslighting

In my previous post, we talked about manipulation and sampled the character of Jin Mu from Alchemy of Souls. Fact check, we meet a gaslighter in real life sometimes unaware of it, and so before falling to their trap let me show you ways to spot a gaslighter.

Gaslighting is a colloquialism, loosely defined as making someone question their own reality. The term derives from the title of the 1944 film – Gaslight. The term may also be used to describe a person (a “gaslighter”) who presents a false narrative to another group or person, thereby leading them to doubt their perceptions and become misled, disoriented or distressed.

Wikipedia

Gaslighting is a favorite tool of a toxic person. It is a form of abuse and psychological control. A gaslighter will start with small lies, eventually misinformation increases overtime. Anyone can be a victim of a gaslighting and the most effective gaslighter is the hardest to detect.

Gaslighting can appear in various ways. Here are examples or techniques they use (from Medical News Today);

  • Countering: This is when someone questions a person’s memory or recall. They may say, “Are you sure about that? You have a bad memory,” or “I think you are just forgetful.”
  • Withholding: Pretending they do not understand the conversation, or refusing to listen, to make a person doubt themselves. For example, they might say, “Now you are just confusing me,” or “I do not know what you are talking about.”
  • Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards how someone else feels. They may accuse them of being “too sensitive” or overreacting in response to valid and reasonable concerns.
  • Denial: Refusing to take responsibility for their actions. They may do this by pretending to forget what happened, saying they did not do it, or blaming their behavior on someone else.
  • Diverting: With this technique, a person changes the focus of a discussion by questioning the other person’s credibility. A great tactic and often use by personalities to divert the attention from them.
  • Stereotyping: A person may intentionally use negative stereotypes about someone’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, or age to gaslight them. For example, they may say that no one will believe a woman if she reports abuse.

From the examples listed, you maybe able to detect a gaslighter. As a disclaimer, this behavior becomes toxic based on intentions. And we may accidentally use the phrases sampled above without really intending to gaslight someone. It’s all in the intention or motives of a person.

It is different from Manipulation though. Manipulation is a key part of gaslighting, it’s a common tactic. Can be used in marketing strategies, politics, institutions, etc. But gaslighter, they are very rare and much more toxic.


Gaslighting can be psychologically devastating. According to Psychology Today, it violates trust, upends a person’s view that people are generally good, and can make them suspicious of everyone who is close to them. Falling victim to a gaslighter also erodes a person’s trust in themselves and may make a victim never want to be part of a relationship again.

There are ways to protect yourself from this form of abuse. First to simply gather evidence, write journals, take photos, etc. and use them as your proof. You may also talk to someone trustworthy and if needed, leave that toxic relationship.

Posted in life, motivational

Life 101: How to not to be toxic

Studying Psychology shows you a myriad of complicated terms, endless name of disorders, personality types, etc. But let’s be practical here, everywhere you go there’s always a “toxic” person. They’re impossible to avoid, can give you negative feelings and worse affect your mental health.

But do you know that Toxic behavior is something that can manifest in us all?

We all have bad days but it is important to be aware of our actions and how they affect the people around us. “Self-awareness” – according to my professor and the author of best selling book Permission to feelMarc Brackett, is the start of becoming an Emotional Scientist.


First, let us learn how to identify a toxic individual.


Being toxic is never fun to be around, you drive people away and usually encounter conflicts and misunderstandings. Keep in mind that these behaviors don’t happen overnight, it is developed through the years and has underlying causes or triggers like childhood trauma. They are actually unconscious and developed over time as their defense mechanism. Not an excuse though, that’s why we begin by realizing if our behavior is already hurting other people.

Ways not to be toxic.

1. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones

  • it all starts with your mind, your thoughts drive and guide how you behave.
  • In my psychology course by Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, we are provided with “thought strategies”.
  • Professor Marc Brackett said that our brain is hay wired to think negatively right away, it is our automatic way of thinking. This is not good for the body as it activates our limbic system.
  • Thinking positively takes time and lot of effort.

2. Be actively Grateful

  • When we practice gratitude, our feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction increase, and the feeling of burn-out decreases.
  • Toxic people are unhappy because they tend to look at the past and for them everything in their life is not good enough.
  • Take a few minutes everyday to be actively grateful. This could be anything from your pet, sunshine or good weather, family, or the roof above your head.
  • If you really want not to be toxic, know that acknowledging the good things in your life lets you focus on them and everything else seems brighter and happier.

3. Think before you react

  • build the habit of pausing before reacting.
  • toxic people are highly reactive, they tend to lash out on people around them.
  • this is the best time to practice being a better listener, so instead of reacting try to listen first.
  • being an active listener shows that you care.

4. Let your ego go

  • a toxic person is desperate to maintain a certain image to the point of attacking others, or being defensive and becoming a habitual liar.
  • they believe they’re entitled and people are beneath them.
  • accept that nobody’s perfect and that you’re not always correct.
  • kindness is free and without your ego this is easy.

5. Show accountability

  • this is related to ego, apologizing is like admitting defeat to a toxic person.
  • admitting you’ve made a mistake and taking responsibility makes it feel you’ve failed.
  • if you’re not able to be accountable for your own wrongdoing — if you dig in, and have to maintain your image — this is a big potential problem. For one, it’s a sign of narcissism.
  • it will be a struggle to maintain a real relationship to someone who can never ever accept fault. It makes other people uncomfortable, denies their emotions or needs, and leaves them feeling wronged too.

6. Avoid gossip

  • here comes “marites” or the gossiper
  • it becomes highly toxic when the objective of the story is to destroy other people and talk about their misfortunes.
  • don’t be too quick to judge others and then spread rumor about them.
  • try to know people first, listen, be kind and considerate.

7. Build others up, not test them

  • we all want to be with someone who celebrates with us. They are happy when you’ve achieved something instead of belittling.
  • this is related to gossiping, if we try to pinpoint the mistakes of other people.
  • real strength is when you uplift and motivate others instead of pulling them down.

8. Seek help

  • if you’re unsure about your own behaviour in certain aspects of life, that’s completely fine. It’ll probably best to act on it right away.
  • whether it’s consulting friends, family, a professional (like a therapist), there are ways to learn more about ourselves and help us improve these areas in our life.
  • toxic behavior doesn’t happen accidentally. It’s likely caused by something in your mind like unresolved issues and past trauma.
  • connecting with others is also a way of healing. Strong social ties are linked with happiness, longevity and health.

Reaching this point means you care about yourself as a person and open to growth and maturity. Don’t worry, being toxic is not forever, it’s not permanent.

“when you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.”

– RUMI